Summer typically means higher temps and more time spent outside. Whether you’ve just finished mowing the lawn in the sweltering heat or are simply enjoying the cool night air, there’s certainly a beer that’s perfect for the occasion. As opposed to winter, when we long for stouts, porters, brown ales, barleywines and other styles on the darker, and often heavier, side of beer, summer months bring a thirst for lighter, more refreshing offerings. Here’s a list (in alphabetical order by brewery, not rank) of some of my favorite beers that are practically made for summer – some literally made for summer and offered only as seasonal releases, and others that are available year-round.
Hailing from just outside Kalamazoo, Michigan, Bell’s Brewery has been known amongst the craft beer scene for making some solid brew. Their summer seasonal, Oberon, is no exception. One of the most well-known summer seasonals – particularly in the northern and eastern states – this beer is characterized by a “refreshing mix of malted wheat flavor and fruity notes, wrapped up in a distinctively citrusy hop aroma”. I find it to be extremely well-balanced, not too light and certainly sessionable, making it an ideal summer companion.
Boulevard Tank 7
A great take on the Belgian farmhouse ale from a Midwest brewery known for their American wheat beer. This one is very drinkable and is characterized by a relatively high carbonation level, making it particularly refreshing during the hotter months. Though, I’d recommend it as a nighttime selection as the rich, boozy and syrupy facets come through which may not exactly be ideal for quenching a thirst or cooling you down.
Brasserie Lefèbvre SA Blanche de Bruxelles
Perhaps one of the most popular witbiers around, Blanche de Bruxelles can usually be found in any city or town. As a true Belgian witbier, wheat makes up 40% of the grain bill making it a clean, easy-drinking and highly refreshing quaff. The coriander and orange peel are typical of the style, and Brasserie Le Lefèbvre SA incorporates them well. This one goes down super easy, and is now available in cans, making it great for sporting events, camping or wherever you need a brew.
Deschutes Hop Henge
Bringing something big into the mix, this double IPA is a limited release from Deschutes as part of their more experimental Bond Street Series. This is a big, complex and perfectly balanced imperial IPA with hops galore. However, the hop infusion is done very well with each of the recipe’s seven varieties bringing something different to the table. The beer has great substance and mouthfeel and a citrus character that is appropriately apparent from front to back.
Dogfish Head Noble Rot
When it comes to getting experimental, Sam C. and Co. are certainly at the forefront. Noble Rot is hard to confine to a particular style, but they themselves have referred to it as being a “saison-esque science project”. The beer uses unfermented juice from grapes (also known as “must”), specifically viognier and pinot gris, and claim that it is the closest thing to an equal combination of beer and wine that has been commercially released. It features all of the characteristics of a white wine and a saison. Needless to say, this one is very interesting and very tasty!
Dogfish Head Positive Contact
Yes, Dogfish Head again… Classifiable as a witbier, Positive Contact is more like a “double” or “imperial” wit, simply because of its alcohol content – weighing in at 9% ABV. This limited release from Dogfish Head is characterized by a fruity, spicy and fresh complexity seldom seen in wheat beers, and its exceptional balance makes it a dangerously deceptive drinker in that the high ABV goes virtually unnoticed – tread lightly (and deliciously)!
Russian River Supplication
When I said brown ales don’t typically come to mind in the summer, I wasn’t talking about this one. A completely different take on your standard brown ale, Supplication is aged for about a year in pinot noir barrels with sour cherries and three different strains of Belgian yeast. The cherries and oak blend together perfectly and the sourness level is pretty high, which actually makes for a very refreshing sip that’s sure to please when temps rise. Though, don’t set your sights too closely on this one as it’s a seasonal release from a brewery that has limited distribution channels that they do not have any plans on expanding. For those of you on the West Coast that aren’t already aware, check it out!
St. Bernardus Wit
Made by the same beloved Belgians that brought us the highly acclaimed Abt 12, their witbier is a much lighter offering that was created in collaboration with Pierre Celis, a master of the style (Hoegaarden/Celis White). It is described as having a “wheaty, apple-like tartness” with spicy notes from the coriander. It’s slightly sweet and offers the perfect carbonation level for a crisp, refreshing sip. This one is an exceptional example of the style, and in my opinion, you can’t ever go wrong with anything that St. Bernardus touches.
Three Floyds Gumballhead
One of the most highly rated American wheat beers around, this beer was originally a summer seasonal that was moved to year-round production due to exceptionally high demand. The use of red wheat instead of the more common white variety often found in Belgian witbiers and German hefeweizens makes for a unique flavor profile with an ever-so-slight bitterness. Use that discerning palate of yours and you’ll even find some lemon!
Unibroue La Fin du Monde
One of my favorite tripels, this one is actually a tripel-style golden ale as it’s actually from Canada, not Belgium. Well-known amongst the beer community for the great aroma, mild yeastiness and fruit and spice-forward palate, this offering from Unibroue can be found almost anywhere and will undoubtedly make for a great summer evening. Though, personally, I think it pairs well with anything – food-, occasion- and season-wise.